Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix, Justin Gatlin headline Shanghai Diamond League; preview

Leave a comment

The second Diamond League meet of the season has a tough act to follow after the opener in Doha produced several memorable events.

Last week, Diamond League records were set in the men’s high jump and women’s 3000m, among seven world-leading performances in the Qatar capital.

The circuit moves to Shanghai for the second of 14 meets Sunday, headlined by Olympic champions Allyson FelixShelly-Ann Fraser-PryceJustin Gatlin and Renaud Lavillenie, who broke the indoor pole vault world record in February.

Universal Sports will have live coverage beginning at 8 a.m. ET Sunday. The full schedule and entry lists can be found here. Here’s the schedule of events Sunday (all times Eastern):

6 a.m. — Women’s long jump
6:10 — Women’s discus
6:25 — Men’s shot put
6:45  – Women’s high jump
7:45 — Men’s pole vault
8:04 — Men’s 400m hurdles
8:13 — Women’s 1500m
8:26 — Men’s 100m
8:27 — Men’s triple jump
8:30 — Men’s javelin
8:36 — Women’s 400m
8:46 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
9:06 — Men’s 800m
9:17 — Women’s 200m
9:26 — Men’s 5000m
9:50 — Men’s 110m hurdles

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s shot put

The field includes the reigning World Championships gold and silver medalists, German David Storl and American Ryan Whiting, the two-time reigning Olympic champion Pole Tomasz Majewski and the 2014 world leader, American Christian Cantwell.

Cantwell missed much of last season due to injury, but he may well be the favorite given he has three of the four best throws this season, including one of 21.85m, which would have won last year’s World Championship.

Men’s 100m

The reigning world silver medalist Gatlin is the man to watch here after he clocked 10.02 seconds into a massive 3.5 m/s headwind in Tokyo last Sunday.

Gatlin’s goal over the next two seasons is to break Tyson Gay‘s American record of 9.69. Gatlin’s personal best is 9.79. He’ll be pushed in Shanghai by world bronze medalist Nesta Carter of Jamaica and American Mike Rodgers. Expect the winner to set a new world-leading time for 2014, if the wind is legal, given the best so far is 9.98.

Women’s 400m

This is Felix’s third attempt at a season debut after she pulled out of meets in Kingston, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands. Felix, who tore her right hamstring in the 200m final at the 2013 World Championships, has said she’s going to run more 400m races this year, so finally opening with a one-lap event is fitting.

She’ll take on the woman who clipped her for 2011 World Championships gold, Botswana’s Amantle Montsho, and the 2014 World Indoor champion, American Francena McCorory.

The Olympic 200m champion Felix switched from the 400m to the 100m as her complementary event after losing to Montsho by .03 in 2011, but she said last year she’s favoring the 400m over the 100m in this Olympic cycle. This could be her first step toward Rio in that respect.

Women’s 200m

The triple 2013 world champion Fraser-Pryce is running her second straight Diamond League meet after taking a 100m in Doha last week. She’s using this non-Olympic, non-World Outdoor Championship year to put more work into the 200m.

The Jamaican already won a 200m in Kingston on May 3 in 22.53, but the world leader is American Joanna Atkins at 22.27. Atkins is not in the field in Shanghai, but U.S. champion Kimberlyn Duncan is. Duncan also has a 22.53 this year, but she was beaten by Fraser-Pryce in Kingston.

Also watch out for two-time Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, who hasn’t run the 200m since it was revealed she failed a drug test last year. World bronze medalist Blessing Okagbare and U.S. 100m champion English Gardner are also in the field.

Men’s 110m hurdles

This is the finale at Shanghai Stadium, and for good reason as it is the most popular track event in China since Liu Xiang‘s Olympic title in 2004. Liu is not in the field. Very little has been seen of the Chinese megastar since he hobbled out of the Olympics with an Achilles injury for the second straight Games.

Instead, this race was supposed to feature Olympic champion and world record holder Aries Merritt against the man who previously held both titles, Cuban Dayron Robles. But Merritt pulled out of the meet due to health issues this week.

Robles’ world record from 2008 is 12.87 seconds, but he hasn’t bettered 13.10 in nearly three years. The winner is more likely to be one of the 2013 World Championships medalists — David OliverRyan Wilson or Sergey Shubenkov.

Yohan Blake wants to try a different sport after sprinting

Korea Olympic hockey coach takes high school job

AP
Leave a comment

Sarah Murray, who coached the joint Korean Olympic women’s hockey team in PyeongChang, will coach the Owatonna High School girls team in her native Minnesota starting this fall.

Murray has not responded to a request for comment though the school on whether this means she is leaving the South Korean national team program.

Murray, 30, guided the joint Korean Olympic team to an 0-5 record. The tournament underdogs scored in three games and were within two goals of Switzerland.

Three weeks before the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee approved adding 12 North Koreans to the South Korean Olympic women’s hockey team, making it the first joint Korean team in any Olympic event.

Murray initially had mixed feelings.

“It’s exciting to be a part of something that’s so historic, to have two countries so divided come together through sports,” Murray said in January, according to Yonhap News Agency. “I think the story is great, and to be a part of it is important. But at the same time, it’s mixed feelings because it’s at the expense of, ‘We don’t get to play our full roster.’”

She expressed optimism after the Games.

“We have really enjoyed working with the North’s players and coaches, and we really do want to help them in the future,” Murray said, according to The Associated Press, adding that a possible “exchange game” was discussed to maintain the connection. “They want to get better, they want to keep learning from us and we want to help them. And there are things that we can learn from them, too.”

Murray won two NCAA titles as a player at Minnesota-Duluth. Her father, Andy Murray, spent 10 seasons coaching the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues in the 2000s.

She replaces an Otawonna coach who stepped down to focus on the girls lacrosse program and spend more time with his family.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: South Korea hockey team misses playing with North Koreans

Michael Phelps launches mental health campaign

AP
Leave a comment

Michael Phelps was hanging at the pool on Tuesday.

No, he’s not planning another comeback.

He’s got a bigger goal to tackle.

Mental health.

After revealing the depths of his depression — and even thoughts of suicide after his second drunken-driving arrest — Phelps is hoping to make a difference for those who are dealing with similar issues.

The 23-time Olympic gold medalist announced a partnership with Talkspace, which provides online therapy, and said he considers it a higher calling than anything he ever did as a swimmer.

“Somebody told me yesterday about his daughter going through a very, very deep depression and not really wanting to be alive,” Phelps said in an interview with The Associated Press. “She read stories about me opening up. He told me how much that helped her. For me, that’s way bigger than ever winning gold medals. The chance to potentially save a life, to give that person an opportunity to grow and learn and help someone else, there’s nothing better in life.”

Despite his unprecedented success as an athlete, Phelps went through plenty of dark moments.

His first DUI arrest came when he was just 19, a few months after he won six gold medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics. He was briefly suspended after a picture emerged of him smoking from a marijuana pipe after his record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. He struggled to get motivated heading into the 2012 Olympics.

But his low point came in 2014, after he abandoned retirement to compete in a fifth Olympics only to be arrested again for driving under the influence. He checked into an Arizona rehab clinic and finally realized just how much he was hurting — so much so, he wasn’t sure he wanted to go on living.

“I thought it would make things easier,” Phelps recalled. “I almost felt like it would be better for everybody if I wasn’t there. But the more I thought about it, I wanted to find a different route. I wanted to see if I could find some help. I wanted to see if I could get better.”

Phelps said he’s in a much better place these days. He’s happily married and living in suburban Phoenix with two small children, 2-year-old Boomer and 3-month-old Beckett. He’s satisfied with his career, saying there’s nothing left to accomplish at the pool.

But there are times that he struggles with depression and anxiety.

He figures it will be that way for the rest of his life.

“I still go through times that are very challenging. I do break down and maybe have a bad day, where I’m not in a good mental state,” Phelps said. “I understand that. It’s who I am. I guess that will always be something that’s a part of me.”

He hopes that his deal with Talkspace, which helps connect those in need with therapists through a variety on online conduits, will help to remove some of the stigma associated with mental health — especially for those who are reluctant to seek out help in person or may not have the financial means.

Phelps said mental health is especially important when suicide rates are on the rise and a rash of school shootings have rocked the United States.

“I feel like with all the issues we have in this world, this is something where I can truly make significant impact,” he said.

The 32-year-old Phelps has kept himself in good condition since Rio. He rides a bike nearly every day and still works out at the pool at least twice a week. When he stepped on the scales Monday, he weighed 192 pounds — 3 pounds less than he was at his last Olympics.

“Could I come back? Yes,” he said. “I think it would be even easier than it was in 2014 (when he officially ended his first attempt at retirement). I’m in better shape now than I was then.”

But, with those tantalizing words, Phelps quickly struck down any thought of returning to competitive swimming.

He simply doesn’t have any motivation to add to his record haul.

“Would I like to break a world record? Yeah, obviously,” Phelps said. “But I also know what I did to prepare for Rio. I thought I did a pretty damn good job of getting myself ready to go. I didn’t want any what-ifs 20 years down the road. Twenty years down the road, I won’t have that. I’ll be able to say I was happy with how I finished my career. I was happy to be able to have my family there, to have my first-born there to watch. I’ll have those memories forever.

“All good things must come to an end eventually. That was the best way to go out.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Ryan Lochte begins comeback in earnest